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If you have ever been in the kitchen when someone was baking homemade, whole wheat bread, then you know that the delicious smell that fills the entire room is just this side of Heaven. And then it gets even better: the loaves come out of the oven, each a work of art, deep, golden brown. You know you need to slice one open while it's still warm, and spread it with melting butter. Add a thick slice of cheese and you have a meal literally fit for a king. There is simply nothing that compares with savory, home baked bread, fresh from the oven, made with real, whole ingredients. Nothing you can buy in a package, nothing you can get from a restaurant menu, can ever quite compare.

Have I convinced you to learn to bake your own bread? Or, perhaps, organic whole wheat flour is already a part of your diet, but you're curious about its make up or health benefits? Either way, read on to learn more about this amazing little grain.

What is whole wheat flour?

Whole wheat literally means that the whole grain is used when grinding wheat to make flour. This includes the wheat germ and the bran. The wheat germ is the tiny, nutrition-packed part of each wheat grain that actually allows the seed to germinate and grow. According to the Mayo clinic, the germ is packed with valuable nutrients including thiamin, potassium, magnesium, vitamin E, riboflavin, phosphorus, iron and zinc. Wheat bran is the thin shell of each grain of wheat. It is a valuable source of fiber.

Why whole wheat?

Both the wheat germ and the bran are removed when wheat is made into white or processed flour. What is left is essentially the starch that Mother Nature packed into the grain to feed the growing plant during the first few days after germination. What a shame. By removing the germ and the bran before making flour, the resulting product is stripped of almost all its nutritional value leaving only starch.

When you use organic whole wheat flour for cooking and baking, you are giving yourself and your family the very best food available. While many people have touted the health benefits of whole grain products for years, studies are now being made to back up those claims. A recent study by the National Institutes of Health, for example, showed that a diet rich in whole grains both lowered overall body mass index (BMI) and also lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease. The study also showed that weight loss while on the whole grain rich diet was mostly in the abdominal area. Better health and a more shapely figure. What a lovely combination!

Why organic?

There are two reasons for choosing organically grown fruits, vegetables, grains and flours. One benefits you; the other benefits our planet. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Library, if a product is labeled "organic" it means it was grown using "materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems." This means that not only are you getting food that is not dripping with chemical additives, it was also grown in a manner that "enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity." When you use organic, both you and our world walk away with better health.

But will I like it?

There are many misconceptions about whole wheat products. Some people mistakenly believe that those who eat them do so out of a sense of duty. Health food "nuts" are seen as chewing their way through tough, lumpy, tasteless breads and muffins and pancakes on a stoic -- and boring -- quest for better health. Nothing could be further from the truth. Foods made with organic flours actually are much richer in taste and texture than those made with processed white flour. What whole wheat lacks in smooth, uniformity, it more than makes up with its rich, deep pallet of flavors. Once you make the transition to whole wheat products -- especially those you make yourself -- you will never go back to the bland flavor of bleached flours and over-processed grains.

And there is literally no limit to what can be made with whole grain flour. While some concessions have to be made for the heavier texture, organic flours can be used to make pastries, cookies, tortillas, even bagels. And each one of these beautiful little gems will be packed with flavor and nutrition.

It's a win-win

Better nutrition, better flavor, better for the planet. What more could you ask from anything you put on your table?

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